Parents make mistakes too: using not-nice words with your kids

The other day I had one of those interactions with my daughter where I knew I was making a mistake, and I couldn’t help myself. After her birthday week, which consisted of 4 separate celebrations, she was acting like a brat. After fielding many questions, comments and whines, I called her a brat. I said it a couple of times in a short period of time. I don’t know what it is about that word, but it strikes deep. That’s why I used it.

Not surprisingly, a couple of days later she called me a brat when I was acting like, well, I guess like a brat. I reprimanded her that she shouldn’t call me that. I’m the grownup. She’s the kid. Therefore, I was the one allowed to call someone a brat. She didn’t buy my logic, and explained earnestly that it wasn’t nice to call anyone that word. So much for trying to teach her not to be a brat. Not only was she using the word against me, but it was clear that I overused it and it lost it’s power.

Before you judge me too hard, know this: I felt badly. As I stepped back and looked at it in context– something I encourage my students to do–I felt even worse. I mean, here was a kid who was responding to circumstances I created. I was the one who organized all her parties and gave her a bunch of cool prezzies.

I’m sorry, kiddo

And yet, even knowing as much as I do about kids and communication, I labeled her as bad and she knew it. So I did what I would have wanted someone to do to me: I apologized to her for calling her a not-nice name. She accepted. I didn’t go into why I called her a brat, because that’s not what apologizing should be. I made a mental note to find other language for her next time she’s a brat, err, I mean acting in a way that isn’t nice.

It’s okay to mess up with your kids. LIfe is messy and fortunately, they are resilient. When possible, take the opportunity to acknowledge that you too make mistakes and it’s okay. As a parent, it keeps you from having to always be right, which can make your authority questionable as the years go on. By apologizing to my daughter, I showed her that I am human, and as such, imperfect. As long as I can own my mistakes, it’s okay to make them.

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